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Comment Archives: stories: News + Opinion: Environment

Re: “Sacred Cows: Does Vermont Cut Farmers Too Much Slack on Water-Quality Violations?

Years ago Kim Greenwood was an overzealous "Silt Cop" (that's the nice name the industry had for her) that was set loose on the Contractors of the State to enforce mandated erosion control measures. Why is it Construction enforcement to prevent silt and turbidity from entering the waterways was much more of an educate then penalize approach than the look the other way and "hand hold' kumbaya approach with the "sacred cow" offenders in the Agricultural industry that are still knowingly allowing silt, fertilizers. and fecal coliforms to enter the waterways? If strict enforcement was more evenly and fairly applied across the agricultural spectrum, and was a result of prima fascia violations to immediately stop bad behaviors, instead of the ability of the offenders to be able to pay the fines, it would straighten up the practices of those offenders much quicker, and if not, then lawfully shut them down and sell their herds. Construction used to be a "standard practices" common sense effort too when it came to preventing soils from running off the site, but, because of profit motive and corner cutting mentalities that permeate all businesses real rules, regulations, and procedures that effect ALL in the business had to be instituted to level the playing field and protect the environment at the same time. Did it add to the cost of construction? Sure it did, and it will add to the cost of the operations of working farms too, but , that's part of the cost of doing business in this new age.

2 likes, 1 dislike
Posted by JimM on 04/03/2015 at 8:43 AM

Re: “Sacred Cows: Does Vermont Cut Farmers Too Much Slack on Water-Quality Violations?

The reality of the battle we have been having since moving to Vermont for fresh air/water and "good life" is now in print. Kathryn Flagg, found our file, contacted us last week and wrote this thorough article. Our situation is the final section, "Waiting for Action". We are also grateful that the EPA is demanding Vermont clean up its waste and pollution. This fight has been extremely difficult, but we are not giving up.

To those of you who read this article, a note,,, we bought our property before our "neighbor" bought his. He moved here from Massachusetts. We do not have a problem with anyone raising animals, just do it according to regulations. He built the pen directly adjacent to our property line, without even a buffer. His blatant neglect and ways have impacted the surrounding village and homes, (which are very well cared for). Mr. Girard states he does not have the necessary funds to make improvements (waste water management and manure removal), then how can he comply with AAP regulations?

James and Karen Abbruscato

3 likes, 1 dislike
Posted by Karen Spear Abbruscato on 04/02/2015 at 6:26 PM

Re: “Sacred Cows: Does Vermont Cut Farmers Too Much Slack on Water-Quality Violations?

Thank-you for reporting on this. For years, I've read headlines such as this from VTDigger:

"Vermont's Largest Polluters". (See…)

In a classic example of how our institutions all-to-often continue to fight the last war, not the current one, the list methodically looks at smoke-stacks. Here's what it ignores: our streams, lakes & rivers. It puts the state's manufacturers as the top polluters in the headline, which isn't helpful, when the larger environmental framework is considered.

The sad fact is that the agricultural community is the long-reigning pollution King. The press, which has all-too-often taken a less-than-generous of big business broadly, and of large businesses specifically, hasn't provided equal scrutiny of ag. This hasn't been helpful, and our lake is the worse off for this malignant neglect.

Is it finally time for fair assessments? Is the third pail of Vermont politics, agriculture, finally no longer untouchable? Bravo, Seven Days for asking the right questions on a difficult topic for Vermont...

1 like, 1 dislike
Posted by Brandthropologist on 04/02/2015 at 9:59 AM

Re: “Sacred Cows: Does Vermont Cut Farmers Too Much Slack on Water-Quality Violations?

Sacred Cows - Comments
"AAP" (Accepted Agricultural Practices) and "Clean Coal" - probably coined by the same marketing agency.
Both should be seen for what they are - oxymorons!
AAPs were developed in 1995 and 20 years later our lake is in worse shape. There is the message from that
simple fact; the problem being better education is not the one that comes to mind.
AAPs allow for the application of manure within 10 to 25 feet of a body of water. That buffer strip can be
plowed and can be planted. Meanwhile latest shoreland reg prohibit the clearing of lakefront for housing
within 100' of the lake and add other restrictions going back 250'. Homes = bad; Manure = Acceptable.
April 1 is an appropriate date for this article since it is also the beginning date for application of manure on
Vermont fields. As long as the application is not in a currently flooded flood plain or with direct discharge
into a body of water it is acceptable. If the result is an indirect discharge into Lake Champlain, that is
Small Farm definition is up to 500 head, with up to 200 milkers
Medium Farm is up to 1000 head with up to 500 milkers
Large Farm is all the rest
Separate farms owned by same parties are considered independent of one another, even if worked by same
employees. One can milk 2000 cows and still be a Medium Farm.
Dept of Financial Regulation sees their role as protecting the public in insurance or financial services
DMV protects the public from activities on highways.
Department of Corrections protects the public from criminals.
Meanwhile, Department of Agriculture sees their charge as advancing Agriculture in the State of Vermont.
Does anyone see an inconsistency?

6 likes, 1 dislike
Posted by Marc Landry on 04/01/2015 at 6:52 PM

Re: “Communities Demand More Say on Solar Projects

What do local communities know about what we want to see in each respective community? They only live there?!? "Public good" is not "good for the public" if the community living with the eyesore doesn't have ultimate say in the decision, and the profits don't stay in the community. Let's put some thought into the future of the beauty of this state, huh? Can somebody in the puzzle palace find a way to incentivize placement of these power plants in a community supported way?

2 likes, 0 dislikes
Posted by Ben Thomas on 03/31/2015 at 11:06 PM

Re: “Communities Demand More Say on Solar Projects

SunCommon's founder seems to be bent on turning the company into Vermont's own small version of Monsanto, start out with a good idea and then turn into a megalomaniac dominating and destroying all who object. Even though I am not directly impacted by the solar arrays, I definitely feel sympathy as I am continually shocked by the number of panels and how intrusively they have been located. I am sure it saves the solar installers money to set up right beside roadways, but it doesn't do much for Vermont's scenic beauty and rural character. Solar power is a great boon to our society, please put reasonable limits on these people who are taking advantage of a new technology and a dearth of laws. SunCommon and others are making a ton of money, it would be nice if greed for once did not kill the goose that lays the golden egg.

4 likes, 0 dislikes
Posted by Penelope on 03/31/2015 at 7:11 PM

Re: “Communities Demand More Say on Solar Projects

Article states: Developers and state officials say they take town plans into consideration and that the process works the way it's supposed to. "If the community puts specification in the town plan, it's not clear that the Public Service Board doesn't take that into account," said Darren Springer, deputy commissioner of the state Department of Public Service.

Darren Springer apparently missed the case of Joe Larkin & South Burlington, even though it was the cover story of Seven Days article on solar last fall. Developer Larkin ignored South Burlington's Comprehensive Plan and so did the PSB. They ignored the official letter they received from South Burlington's own Planning Commission, stating the Planning Commission's opposition to the project because it does not comply with South Burlington's Comprehensive Plan.

Here you have a town that spent tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars and countless volunteer hours updating their Comprehensive Plan, complying with Governor Kunin's Act 200. The land is zoned for natural resources protection and for a wildlife corridor. Connects all the way down to Shelburne Pond. At most, was supposed to be a park. Instead, thanks to total exemptions from all local zoning and Act 250, it is now carpet-bombed with solar panels.

Tony Klein is a good guy whose heart is in the right place. Unfortunately, he seems entirely comfortable with having gutted Act 250 and undermined local zoning. I get zero impression that he supports anything more than window dressing regarding increasing community input. Vermont Democrats have gone overboard in the wrong direction, abandoning the values of citizen input and environmental protection that got them to this point. They were rightly smacked in the last election and face further losses if they don't get on the right side of this, among other issues.

8 likes, 0 dislikes
Posted by Chris in S. Burlington on 03/26/2015 at 10:34 PM

Re: “Communities Demand More Say on Solar Projects

I will note the term 'brownfields' I suppose a field that might not get hayed or other wised used for agricultural purposes would be better turned black, into a 'blackfield' than be turned into row houses.

The solar gold rush is making money for Wall Street and the preppy companies pushing the scam...all the while "Wall Street" and Washington destroyed the ability for a farmer to keep the fields green by being able to make a decent living creating essential wealth.

Put the solar panels on roofs and over parking lots.

7 likes, 1 dislike
Posted by Bruce Marshall on 03/25/2015 at 11:43 AM

Re: “Water Warrior: James Ehlers Is Lake Champlain's Loudest and Most Divisive Advocate

I would like to echo what is being said by the other commenters. I work with James in a partnering organization and consider him a friend. James has an uncanny ability to build connections and inspire unexpected advocates which is invaluable and refreshing in a time where making a difference can seem impossible. James empowers everyone in his audience to action.
James is a kind soul, full of vim and vigor, with a rebel heart and a refreshingly clear voice--a true advocate and leader. We need more like him. Thanks, James!

1 like, 0 dislikes
Posted by Grace Meyer on 02/25/2015 at 12:55 PM

Re: “Water Warrior: James Ehlers Is Lake Champlain's Loudest and Most Divisive Advocate

I've had the privilege and pleasure of serving on the LCI Board of Directors for just under a year now. James' passion and advocacy are what drew me to the organization, and I have found it to be one of the most engaging and hardworking non-profits in Vermont. Under James' direction, LCI has become the leading advocacy organization for the Lake. Perhaps the best testament to his leadership is that he has managed to form partnerships with people and organizations that had not previously paid much attention to the lake. Whether he is speaking to the young women of the Miss Vermont Scholarship Organization, or delivering an address to a gathering of Vermont Social Science Educators, I hope James will continue to show up where he is least expected.

2 likes, 0 dislikes
Posted by Mary Catherine Jones on 02/24/2015 at 4:42 PM

Re: “Water Warrior: James Ehlers Is Lake Champlain's Loudest and Most Divisive Advocate

What an excellent article. I had to chuckle a bit, especially by any comment that talks about James going "too far"....or having to get him "back on the reservation." Then I have to remind myself that they thought Einstein was crazy.

Exactly how far should one go to fight for clean water? It is a very serious question every human being needs to ask. How far would you go to ensure that your water remains swimmable, fishable, and especially drinkable? To take that question a bit further....what would you be willing to do--how hard would you defend your water...if you were the only one who had drinkable water. Get the picture now?

H35 changed considerably from introduction, to making it through the House Fish, Wildlife and Water Resources Committee. It will change some more when the Ag Committee gets ahold of it, and even more when it passes through Natural Resources and Energy. By the time this Bill makes it from introduction to passing, we may not even recognize it. It may be a hollow bill, or it may contain the foundation we need to finally begin the long process of saving our lakes, rivers and watersheds.

We don't need James "back on the reservation"....we don't need him complacent, and we don't need his voice silenced. We need James to go fact we need him to go further than ever before. The truth hurts, but polluted waters kill. We should all take the lesser of two evils and listen fully to the truth. Trust me, you will hear nothing but the truth from James.

1 like, 0 dislikes
Posted by Judith McLaughlin on 02/24/2015 at 3:46 PM

Re: “Water Warrior: James Ehlers Is Lake Champlain's Loudest and Most Divisive Advocate

As a person who loves to sail, fish and swim in our beautiful Lake Champlain, I know of no other individual or organization that has the pure health of the lake at heart more than James Ehlers.
I became a corporate sponsor last year lamenting the decline of the waters quality. It struck me then that this wasn't enough and joined the LCI board and have been in a continual state of amazement as to the obstacles in the way of simply having clean water.
Powerful interests amazingly at odds with clean water, stand staunchly in the way of a swimmable, drinkable and fishable Lake Champlain. As a board member and advocate for these simple requirements, I ask that anyone who can support James and the LCI mission do so right now. Donations of any kind will help, be they financial, personal time or a product for our upcoming Friends of Lake Champlain Dinner and raffle.
Keep up the good fight James. All who want real change this year are right behind you!

Scott E. Richardson

1 like, 0 dislikes
Posted by Scott Richardson on 02/24/2015 at 2:54 PM

Re: “Water Warrior: James Ehlers Is Lake Champlain's Loudest and Most Divisive Advocate

I would like to thank the Editor and Ms. Kathryn Flagg for such an excellent portrayal of James Ehlers's efforts and immense contributions to improving Lake Champlain Water Quality.
In 10 years I had been working in Vermont as Professor in Innovative Technologies for Phosphorus Pollution prevention and control and eutrophication mitigation and as VT small business owner since 2008, who had been repeatedly prevented from bringing improvements to the Lake water quality due to the State politics, James is one of the very few people that I met, determined to make a difference. James is definitely one of the most inspiring, committing and dedicated water advocates in Vermont and beyond. It had been a great pleasure meeting him and working with him.
Aleksandra Drizo

2 likes, 0 dislikes
Posted by Aleksandra on 02/24/2015 at 12:55 PM

Re: “Water Warrior: James Ehlers Is Lake Champlain's Loudest and Most Divisive Advocate

Ms. Flagg, a good article without fluff. Thank you for that. Mr. Ehlers has a passion for the lake. And many of us appreciate that. Yes, he may go a bit far on some points. To the main point for my response; In 1978 I worked for an agricultural supply company that specialized in farm manure management (storage and soil application) here in VT. Special funding from state and federal sources was available and programs to encourage farmers to enroll were initiated. Since then, I have seen one new non-profit "lake clean-up" group after another created and obtain funding for their agenda /purpose. Study after study...Report after report ..., doom, gloom and bloom! Millions upon millions have been spent and we seem to be worse off ! It would be interesting and very helpful to the general public if a "Sam Hemmingway" type research article as to :1 How many groups and agencies are presently in existence or involved in the "clean-up of the lake" and manage it. 2, How much money has been spent since 1978 to do it...with a breakdown of monies actually used in the field / farm VS. money spent used to administer, people, buildings vehicles etc. I think -I may be wrong -.that we will find it to be a pretty interesting article. Is Seven Days up to the task?

3 likes, 0 dislikes
Posted by Greg Fleming on 02/23/2015 at 4:24 PM

Re: “Water Warrior: James Ehlers Is Lake Champlain's Loudest and Most Divisive Advocate

We need to arouse the sleeping public, who are unaware that a water quality problem exists, or are perhaps apathetic concerning the problem. A man like James is just the person to do the awakening. An informed and aroused public can motivate elected officials and appointees to "see the light."Everyone needs to step up and take ownership of this problem, which will have a drastic environmental and economic impact on all those living in the Champlain Valley. Call him whatever you want, I pick James Ehlers to lead this charge for clean water.
Robert Qua Member BOD LCI

3 likes, 0 dislikes
Posted by Robert Qua on 02/23/2015 at 4:12 PM

Re: “Water Warrior: James Ehlers Is Lake Champlain's Loudest and Most Divisive Advocate

I believe Miss. Flagg depicted James Ehlers quite accurately; almost as if she's known him all her life. To know James is to know that he indeed has the heart of a warrior, no matter what cause he is championing. A rare quality in our current culture and perhaps why his detractors dislike him so. James plays to win, as he should, because clean water is vital to all. I will say in conclusion, the one thing that perhaps Kathryn didn't pick up on and certainly the Governor's whisperings about getting James back on the reservation clearly proves they don't know, really know James. Because if they did, they would know that James Ehlers cannot and will not be tamed, and the best compliment I could give him is this, "I'd want him in my fox hole covering my back!"

2 likes, 0 dislikes
Posted by Richard Bernier on 02/23/2015 at 2:12 PM

Re: “Water Warrior: James Ehlers Is Lake Champlain's Loudest and Most Divisive Advocate

Excellent article!

As for Gov. Shumlin's alleged comment, and aside from its overtly racist undertones (particularly when uttered by a white guy), the fact that he apparently views an advocate for clean water as someone who needs to be brought into line speaks volumes. That one turn of phrase would seem to expose serious contradiction between his public persona (as manifested by his recent inaugural speech) and his private intentions.

Could it be that he's just not that into clean water?

Sure, clean water is an easy thing to stump on but like I've written elsewhere, delving into what it takes to really achieve it requires some serious soul searching. And I realize that being governor is no walk in the park but its a job that comes with certain base responsibilities, not the least of which is ensuring that the State's water supply isn't being compromised by nutrient pollution or contamination from industrial toxics. On those fronts we're currently 0 for 2 and so here's hoping that our governor shakes off whatever it is that's causing him to shun those with answers and that he instead starts offering up his support to same. Clean water isn't and should never be a political issue. So how sad it is when someone who insists on clean water gets characterized by so many as anything other than a hero.

Now, to all of those people who think that James is acerbic: be happy that you're not in the position of having to placate one of the ~750,000,000 people worldwide that don't have access to drinkable water. At least we can still drink our water. At least for right now. But how do you think the dynamic will change when the tables turn? How 'bout we don't go there?

7 likes, 0 dislikes
Posted by Kai Mikkel Førlie on 02/19/2015 at 2:43 AM

Re: “Water Warrior: James Ehlers Is Lake Champlain's Loudest and Most Divisive Advocate

Great article, and as someone who knows James, very accurate. We need more direct, fearless people in the environmental community like him.

I think many in the " environmental center movement " as described in the article above, tend to take the " hook and bullet " environmentalists in Vermont less seriously. James is an intelligent and creative member of this group among many others, and refuses to be pigeon holed as this or that. But most of all, he and others like him, prove the peril of underestimating what some in the center smugly refer to as " The Environmental Fringe " .

5 likes, 0 dislikes
Posted by Alex MacDonald on 02/18/2015 at 6:56 PM

Re: “UVM Sets Kill Traps for Dam-Building Beavers in Centennial Woods

Don't kill forest animals. No ethical environmentalist would help kill native animals unless these forest animals caused an imminent fire, safety or health problem to essential human survival. Protecting property is not essential for human survival. It appears that the biologists involved do not know the meaning of a species' forest or if they do they do not care to defend the animals which occupy it. A species' forest is of, by and for all the other native plants, animals, fungi and soil microbes that occupy that place. I see no defenders of the species' forest animals here. I only see faux conservation.

Posted by Richard H. Stafursky on 02/09/2015 at 12:29 PM

Re: “Vermod: Redesigning the Mobile Home for the 21st Century

I wonder if Mr. Laframboise is open to discussing his home with the public (i.e., me)?

Posted by Beth Stever on 01/16/2015 at 11:21 AM

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